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HolidayBuyer's Guide
Smart Home

Router-free smarts with the iSocket 3G

This plug is smart enough to know when its outlet doesn't have power, and uses cellular signal to keep you informed.

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iSocket Systems

Almost all of the smart home devices we've seen depend on the reliability of your home's router. Without Wi-Fi, your fancy new gadget is about as useful as a paperweight. The iSocket 3G from Finnish electronics company iSocket Systems wants to break free from that dependency. With built-in cellular capability and an open API, this smart switch can talk to the cloud on its own and will even alert you in the event of a power failure.

The day-to-day functionality of the iSocket 3G dances to the same tune as more than a dozen other connected devices. Plug it into your wall, then connect an ordinary electronic device to it and your formerly dumb gadget is now smart, as you can turn it on or off remotely. The Belkin WeMo Insight Switch makes the process particularly seamless, and adds energy readings of your device to boot, making it one of our favorites. You can also find smart plugs that work with Apple's HomeKit , and smart plugs that add in surge protection .

The iSocket 3G distinguishes itself by operating via cellular signal, instead of Wi-Fi, and iSocket Systems is promoting the plug as a power outage alert system first and foremost.

You can operate this plug in the distant corners of your home that your router might not be able to reach. And if you're on the road and your home goes dark, you'll get a text message informing you of the outage, allowing you to take any appropriate action. iSocket plugs into the wall but must have a battery with just enough residual power to send the text before shutting down itself.

That feature could certainly come in handy, but it won't come cheap. The iSocket 3G will retail for $200 -- that's three to four times as much as the competition. The WeMo Insight Switch is on the upper end of the smart plug price range due to its included energy readings, and it's only $60.

Availability

iSocket Systems is currently taking pre-orders with an estimated delivery date of sometime this winter, and the company is offering a large discount to early adopters. Right now you can get one for $120, though the discount will shrink as more customers buy in, and you'll have to pay an extra $18 for shipping on top of whatever purchase price you land.

iSocket is working on certifying the plug in Australia, and hopes to have it ready by mid 2016, at which time it'll cost AU$300. Readers in the UK can get an older 2G version of the iSocket plug now, with the 3G version also due in 2016 at a cost of €200, which converts to approximately £144.

The SIM situation

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iSocket Systems

You'll need to purchase a SIM card separately, though the iSocket website walks you through ways to find one cheaply in the US. A basic 3G SIM card will work on AT&T or T-Mobile's network, but you'll still be able to operate the plug if you have Verizon or Sprint. Unlike the rest of the smart plugs we've tested, you won't actually operate the iSocket 3G via an app. You simply text or call in commands via the number associated with the SIM card. I was turned off by that idea initially, but for some, it'll mean one less app to worry about.

According to the iSocket website, if you find the right SIM card, you won't have to worry about much in the way of ongoing fees. You could operate the device with inbound texts for free and pay as little as 9 cents for an outgoing text, which will only happen in the event of a power outage.

Outlook

The iSocket 3G doesn't make a lot of sense as a smart switch given the many available options, and the extra hassle of buying and dealing with a SIM card, along with the lofty initial purchase price. However, if a power outage would be a disaster for you, the alert functionality of the iSocket 3G is unique, and could be prove more than worth the initial buy in and the 9-cent cost of a text.

Where to Buy

iSocket Systems iSocket 3G

Visit manufacturer site for details.

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